COMMENTARY: FAILING FORWARD: Turning Stumbling Blocks into Stepping Stones 754.1

The best way to teach our children to succeed is to teach them to fail.

After all, if getting everything you want on the first try is success, and everything else is failure, we all fail much more often than we succeed.

People who learn how to grow from unsuccessful efforts succeed more often and at higher levels because they become wiser and tougher.

Two great American inventors, Thomas Edison and Charles Kettering, mastered the art of building success on a foundation of failure.

Edison liked to say that he “failed his way to success,” noting that every time he tried something that didn’t work he moved closer to what did. Kettering talked about “failing forward,”* calling every wrong attempt a “practice shot.”

Of course, failure is never desirable, but it can be useful, and it is inevitable.

The only way to avoid failure is to avoid the risks and challenges that help us get better as a people and professionals. The secret of success is learning to transform unsuccessful experiences from stumbling blocks to stepping stones.

Three qualities can turn adversity into advantage: a positive perspective, reflection, and perseverance.

First, learn from the inventors. Don’t allow yourself to think of any failure as final, and never allow unsuccessful efforts to discourage you or cause you to give up. Remember, failure is an event, not a person. Even failing repeatedly can’t defeat you unless you start thinking of yourself as a failure. The way you think about your experiences shapes the experience in ways that either stimulate or stymie further efforts.

Second, don’t waste the experience. Unsuccessful efforts are failures only if you don’t learn from them. Reflect on your actions, attitudes, and the results to discover the lesson within and use that knowledge to guide future efforts.

Finally, persevere. Try and try again. Just be smarter each time.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

* Leadership guru John Maxwell has used Kettering’s  phrase for a title of a book, “Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones


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